ACC U-19 Challenge Cup Final
Bhutan v Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia played some surging, dynamic cricket to win the 2008 ACC U-19 Challenge Cup. They beat Bhutan by 59 runs at the Prem Oval. It was Saudi Arabia's first ever international tournament victory.

Saudi Arabia's captain Mohammad Imran leading his team to victory

On a wicket packed with runs, there was just a possibility that Bhutan could have beaten Saudi Arabia; batting first Saudi were reduced to 109 for 4 after 29 overs with their captain and premier batsman, Mohammed back in the tent, run out for 22 going full-tilt for a single to break the hold which the Bhutan spinners had on his team. The game could have gone either way then.

It went Saudi Arabia's way thanks to Hassan Anwar. He had played second fiddle to Imran in their partnership for the fourth wicket. From then on, every other Saudi batsman was emboldened by him. Anwar took the fight to the bowlers, he drove, he glided, he glanced and guided, taking runs at every opportunity. Bhutan's bowlers weren't allowed to dominate, and when Anwar was joined at the crease by Waqas Obeidy, Saudi Arabia started to race away with the game.

"Waqas has a very good cricket brain," said his coach Mansoor Akhtar from the sidelines during Waqas's innings. Waqas sensed the game was turning Saudi Arabia's way and pressed home the advantage. He hit the first six of the Saudi innings and with Anwar put on 50 runs in just half-an-hour's play. Once Obeidy was out for a brisk 27, Anwar started opening up too reaching his 50 off 53 deliveries, and then striking two sixes himself. By the time he was seventh out in the 46th over, with the score on 213, Bhutan were in a damage limitation exercise. Anwar and Obeidy are simple, uncomplicated batsmen. They see the ball and they hit it, with good technique and plenty of power generated through fine timing. They use their feet to the spinners and are strong on both back and front foot.

Bhutan missed some stumpings and dropped some catches which would have hurt Saudi Arabia but the Saudis bat deep and all the batsmen after Anwar kept the momentum going. "We had a target of 250 at the start," said Mansoor Akhtar, "in a pressure game it will be enough."  Saudi Arabia were all out for 247 in the 50th over.

Mohammad Osama takes a superb catch running backwards
to dismiss Bhutan's Tashi


Waqas Obeidy catches a top-edged pull off Sonam Tobgay at deep backward-square

Bhutan didn't get the start they wanted. Tandin A. Wangchuk was out in the third over. fending off a lifter from Nasir Anwar and though the Saudi bowlers were generous with their wides and no-balls, they bowled enough penetrative deliveries to keep Bhutan under pressure. "We targeted Manoj Adhikari and the skipper Jigme Singye," said the Saudi captain Mohammed Imran afterwards, "they made runs against us in the earlier match. Once we had them both out" - Jigme to one that lifted and turned from Bowler of the Tournament left-arm spinner Ejaz Sageer, Manoj castled by Hussain Anwar -  Saudi felt they had it won. The run-rate was climbing, wickets were falling.

Thinley Jamtsho is run-out and Saudi Arabia are almost home

Thinley Jamtsho's a spunky cricketer however, and as long as he was out in the middle Bhutan had a chance. He made a forthright 26 but once he was run-out by a superb direct throw from Nasir Anwar, it was pretty much guaranteed not to be Bhutan's Challenge Cup.

It had been an excellent final played in great spirit by two highly competitive teams. Conditions at Prem suited the Saudis who play all their cricket on concrete back home but Saudi Arabia always had more balance, depth and weaponry than Bhutan and have a team which would have done very well in the U-19 Elite group. Mohammed Imran was given an incentive for victory prior to leaving Jeddah, being told that "If this team wins the U-19 Cup all of us can be in the senior squad for the 2008 ACC Elite Trophy." Some prize. Some team.

Saudi Arabia's captain Mohammad Imran receives the 2008 ACC U-19 Challenge Cup from ACC Development Manager Sultan Rana

ACC U-19 Challenge Cup
Bhutan v Saudi Arabia at Prem Oval
Saudi Arabia won the toss and chose to bat
Saudi Arabia: 247 off 49.4 overs (H. Khan 32, H. Anwar 62; D. Subba
3-43, T. Jamtsho 3-49)
Bhutan: 188 off 45.1 overs (M. Adhikari 38; M. Imran 3-28, E. Sageer
Man of the Match: Hussain Anwar (Saudi Arabia)


ACC U-19 Challenge Cup 2008

Pictures courtesy of Cricket Association of Thailand

Filed January 19 2008